Detroit Country Day forward DeShawn Lewis goes in for a layup against Walled Lake Western. (Bryan Mitchell / Special to News)
Birmingham — Kurt Keener moved more than his family to Arizona after he retired as co-athletic director and boys basketball coach at Detroit Country Day in June.
Keener took the foundation of one of the state’s top programs with him.
New coach Mark Bray said Keener “didn’t leave the cupboard bare” and, for the present, that is true. Country Day (1-1) will again be a factor in the Class B tournament in March.
But what we are witnessing is the beginning of the end for one of the state’s top programs over the last 25 years. Country Day won the Class C title in 1989 and has won seven Class B titles since, including last season.
Don’t blame Bray. Basketball, specifically the boys program, has been de-emphasized since Keener left. If Country Day administrators wished to have the program continue as it had under Keener, they would have hired a high-profile coach, someone who had tight connections with AAU coaches and would continue the steady flow of high-level talent to the school.
Bray is not a high-profile coach. Active in the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan and a former head coach at Utica Ford, a school that has had limited success in boys basketball, Bray is a coach who will work with the players he has but lacks Keener’s charisma.
Whereas Keener was a co-athletic director, Bray is a freshman history teacher and a 12th-grade government teacher.
Bray’s comments on the talent Keener left behind were directed toward seniors Edmond Sumner, a Mr. Basketball candidate, and Maceo Baston Jr., the team’s top two players. There are some good juniors, like a DeShawn Lewis and Nazir Wallace, but at this point they are solid role players. After Lewis and Wallace, there is a noticeable drop-off in depth.
In Country Day’s 73-69 loss to Walled Lake Western on Friday Sumner (27 points) and Baston (21) teamed for 48 points, nearly 70 percent of the scoring.
There are 26 players in the program, 15 on varsity. Bray does not have a freshman team and he made just two cuts. Both were seniors who never played organized basketball before.
And if you’re looking for the junior varsity to fill the gaps next year, it lost to Western on Friday, 46-17.
A few of Ben Kelso’s former players, some of whom are now head coaches, thought he bit off more than he could chew when he took over the Waterford Kettering program this season. Kettering was 2-19 last season and was picked to finish last in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association North Division this season.
“Some of my former players like (Ecorse coach) Michael Talley, (Detroit Southeastern coach) George Ward, said that if I won at Kettering, they’d jump off the Mackinac Bridge,” Kelso said. “I told them they better go buy some parachutes. I don’t care where I coach, we’re going to win some games. I’m not finishing last.”
Kettering (1-1) defeated Birmingham Groves, 46-31, last Tuesday.
Kelso last coached in high school at Detroit Mumford in 2012. He left Mumford to coach his son, Jalen Benjamin Kelso, in AAU. His son is in the eighth grade in the Waterford school system and Kelso, who coached Detroit Cooley to three consecutive Class A titles (1987-89), decided it was time to return.
Run 'n' gun
It might be wise for teams to slow the tempo down a bit against Holly this season. Holly (2-0) has scored 183 points after beating Swartz Creek, 99-88, on Friday.
“They get up and down,” Holly coach Lance Bayliss said of Swartz Creek. “My guys are athletic, too. I have a good feeling about this team.”
Junior Joshua Sims scored 24 off the bench for Holly, Kyle Woodruff made six 3-pointers and had 29 points and Jake Daniels scored 20 and didn’t play the fourth quarter against Swartz Creek.
“Joshua is a 5-10 version of Dwyane Wade,” Bayliss said. “He came in and ran the point for us. No one can guard this guy.”
Gone are coach Nate Oats (assistant coach at Buffalo) and the five starters from last season’s Class A championship team at Romulus.
Many expected a significant drop-off in the level of play this season. If so, it hasn’t happened yet.
Under new coach Jerret Smith, Romulus is off to a 2-0 start after defeating Detroit Mumford, 73-69, in overtime on Friday.
Smith, an all-state player at Romulus, coached the junior varsity at his alma mater the last four seasons, and last year his team finished 20-0. Smith knew he had talent coming into the season. He players just lacked varsity experience.
“It’s not easy,” Smith said. “We can be good. I just have to keep the program going. We can’t lose the concept of how hard these kids work. Nate did a great job, but these kids put in the time.”
Chris Clyburn (6-4) had 23 points and 18 rebounds against Mumford. DeAngelo Hansbro had a steal and a basket with a minute left to seal the victory.